Top Five Twitter Tips For Business (With A Healthy Dose of Skepticism)

eMarketer recently reported that many of the smallest businesses in the United States don't believe that their customers can be marketed to on social networking sites.

Yet research also shows that social sites are being used to find local businesses, especially by younger customers.

So how should a small business approach Twitter?  These are my top tips:

Three Do's:

1. Do Use It For Research, Not Just Marketing
You're probably already using Google News Alerts to keep up with the latest on your clients and areas of expertise (if you're not, you should be!)

Twitter is great for tapping into the chatter on these things too.  Apps like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow you to set up search columns which automatically display the most recent tweets on any subject of your choice.  See the latest buzz, and keep an eye on the competition!

2. Do Time Your Tweets
92% of retweets occur within the first hour.  So the time at which your tweets go out is pretty important.

Think about the "peak viewing time" of your target audience(s) - are they business people or busy moms?  Which time zones are they in?

Use an application such as Hootsuite to send out your pre-written tweets at optimal times.  You can send out the same tweet more than once to hit different markets, but don't continuously recycle the same message - you'll get flagged for spam.

3. Do Track Your Results
Any tweet that you want to bring traffic to your website, generate sales or leads, etc. must contain a clickable link (too many folks forget to include this call to action and lose out on opportunities).

It's really important to track what you're doing to evaluate results - you want to know what types of tweets work for you, and what times of day are best to send them.

So, you also want to keep an eye on your Web traffic reports to evaluate your Twitter success.  Do visitors from Twitter mostly leave your site immediately, or do they produce the outcomes that you want? 

Since you're restricted to 140 characters, using a free URL shortening service like is very helpful - and it also gives you automatic click-through tracking for every link.

And Two Don'ts:

4. Don't Be Seduced By Big Numbers
It's a wonderful ego boost to have hundreds or thousands of followers.  In fact, Peter Shankman recently referred to this as "the new penis envy!"

But bear in mind that lots of people follow you because they expect you to follow them back as the accepted convention.  So they don't necessarily care that much about what you write . . .

Notice who does respond or retweet your postings and celebrate your loyal followers.  Just remember that quantity doesn't guarantee quality on Twitter.

5. Don't Have Unrealistic Expectations
A recent survey found that over 70% of tweets get no response at all, and an average of only 6% are retweeted.

Think about it - how many people are you following?  How many tweets do you actively read every day, let alone click on any links, retweet or reply . . .

Of course, it only takes one response that's exactly the right one to make a huge impact on your business. 

But don't expect every tweet that you send to be life (or business) changing!

© 2010, Philippa Gamse.  Reprint rights granted so long as the article and byline are reprinted intact and all links made live.